NFL Conference Championship Weekend Betting Previews and Picks

The playoffs have been reduced to two games, two showdowns for the right to play in Super Bowl XLVIII in New York on February 2. These are two blockbuster games and two mega-events that should draw a combined total of nearly 100 million television viewers between them.

The early game is a matchup between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning while the late game is a showdown between Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll, two coaches who hate each other. One game is a classic quarterback duel in the making and the other is the nastiest rivalry in professional football, one which has supplanted Steelers-Ravens and Redskins-Cowboys as the most bitter feud in the league. The NFL could not have asked for a better pair of conference championship games and all hell is going to break loose on Sunday in one form or another.

Here’s the inside scoop on conference championship weekend for the NFL season.

AFC Championship Game: New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos

Game Line: Broncos -5

The Broncos might be playing this game at home but the Patriots have to love what they see on Denver’s defense. The Broncos are just too banged up and limited, which will make it very easy for head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady to find the openings they need on Sunday.

Denver already knew before they began the playoffs that pass rushing expert Von Miller was not going to be available. Miller was pronounced done for the season after he got injured in late December, so the Broncos knew their secondary had to remain injury-free throughout the playoffs in order for this team to maximize its chances of advancing to the Super Bowl.

However, in the second half of this past Sunday’s win over the San Diego Chargers, cornerback Chris Harris – who had been blanketing his side of the field while giving Chargers standout Keenan Allen little room to breathe – suffered an injury. He left the game and San Diego promptly scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to nearly send the game into overtime.

It’s going to be tough for the Broncos’ defense to withstand a likely aerial assault from Tom Brady, one of the NFL’s great big-game performers over the years. When you go to bet on the NFL this weekend, consider that New England looks like a great choice to not only cover the spread but to win outright and come through on the moneyline.

Free Pick: Take the Patriots. Patriots 45-35.Free Pick: Take the Patriots. Patriots 45-35.

Total Betting: New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos

Total: 56 O/U

In terms of the total for your NFL betting picks, it’s true that Denver’s defense was superb this past Sunday against San Diego, but the Chargers are nowhere near as good as the Patriots. In terms of coaching, quarterbacking, running and wide receiver play, New England sets a much higher standard. With all the injuries on Denver’s defense, the Patriots should score a ton of points.

Denver moved the ball consistently against San Diego but did not finish a lot of drives. If the Broncos can finish drives in this game, they should score at a high rate as well.

All in all, an over-under in the 50s seems curiously low, unless of course the weather forecast is nasty. That’s hard to predict at this point, so the over seems like the much better play at this point.

Free Pick: Take the over.Free Pick: Take the over.

NFC Championship Game: San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks

Game Line: Seahawks -3.5

This game is likely to be a slugfest in which the two defenses dominate. San Francisco and Seattle both like to play the same way: run the ball, establish field position, depend on the defense to do most of the work, shorten the game and use running quarterbacks selectively to create some offensive balance.

If you’re looking for NFL betting tips for this this game, a shrewd pair of eyes will see that San Francisco is playing better on offense of the two teams. Colin Kaepernick has become a comfortable quarterback again, thanks to the return of wide receiver Michael Crabtree. It is Crabtree who has opened up the field so that receiver Anquan Boldin is receiving less attention and help from opposing defenses. The Niners have the diversity in their passing game that was missing when Crabtree was injured.

Seattle, meanwhile, doesn’t know if it will have receiver Percy Harvin in its lineup due to a concussion suffered this past Saturday against New Orleans in the Divisional Round. The Seahawks need their receivers to make big plays, but this passing game has been stuck ever since Week 13, the last time the team put together a complete game on offense. Since then, quarterback Russell Wilson has averaged just 157.6 passing yards per game while completing just 56.7% of his passes with four touchdowns and three interceptions. That’s not good enough.

San Francisco is on a roll and has exactly the style of play that can and should win on the road.

Free Pick: Take the 49ers. 49ers 20-16.Free Pick: Take the 49ers. 49ers 20-16.

Total Betting: San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks

Total: 39 O/U

The NFL online betting total for this game is 17 points lower than the Patriots-Broncos matchup and currently sits at 39. It’s fairly clear that the oddsmakers are expecting this to be a significantly different game.

Those who bet on the NFL should see the two defenses control the action in this one. These are the best defenses in the NFL particularly because they had to play in the toughest division in football all season long. The NFC West was the best division in the sport, so by that measurement, these teams – and their defenses in particular – should be seen as the best the sport has to offer. The offenses are not playing as well as they need to in order to make severe dents in these defenses. On top of that, weather could be a factor with rain and wind. This is going to keep the NFL football betting total low.

Free Pick: Take the under.Free Pick: Take the under.

Two Most Important Injuries of the Week are…

Von Miller. The Broncos are missing their best pass rusher. This will make it a lot tougher for Denver to stop Brady and New England’s offense on Sunday.

Percy Harvin is the other key injury. If he can’t play, the Seahawks lose a huge playmaker who can really make a difference for them if he’s on the field – both on offense and special teams.

7-Point Teaser of the Week: Patriots +11 and 49ers +10

A lot of people betting on the NFL will employ this strategy but it’s what we like: taking both dogs and teasing them up on the NFL betting odds.

Brady has won 10 of his 14 head-to-head meetings with Manning, so if we can get the Pats +12, that seems pretty safe. As for the 49ers, we’re expecting them to win outright so getting them +10.5 – and crossing a few key numbers by using a teaser – makes plenty of sense.

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